INDIANAPOLIS – Combine media sessions began with one significant area of Eagles need – the offensive line – and they’re ending today with the other biggest hole – at defensive back.
The man considered the best of the 2011 cornerback class, LSU’s Patrick Peterson, just spoke to the press. Other corners who have done their media sessions include Miami’s Brandon Harris – who has been linked to the Eagles in some mock drafts -- and Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, an athletic 6-foot-2 prospect whose stock has been hurt by an injury-plagued senior year. He is expected to go in the second or third round range.
We’ve also heard today from Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley – the potential number one overall pick – Wayne, Pa. native Mark Herzlich (who we wrote about earlier) and Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. We also watched Downingtown’s Pat Devlin throw this morning. But for Eagles fans, the most intriguing position is cornerback, where the team needs a complement to Asante Samuel.
Peterson is likely to be gone in the top 10, and if he lives up to his own expectations, he’ll be well worth it. Listed at 6-foot-0, 219 pounds, Peterson said he hopes to run a sub-4.3 40-yard dash. He did it in 4.29 last time he ran, he said.
Playing in the SEC, Peterson battled two of the draft’s top receivers, Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones.
“In the NFL, it’s a Jones and Green every Sunday,” Peterson said. Jones was the only opponent to catch a touchdown on him last season, he said.
Peterson, who said he hopes to continue returning kicks in the pros, as he did in college, said he would like to model his game after Charles Woodson – a popular choice among cornerbacks asked that same question.
“He can play each and every defensive position,” Peterson said.
UPDATE: Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) and Jimmy Smith (Colorado), considered the next two best corners in the draft, spoke shortly after we first posted.
Amukamara said he remains confident, despite many projecting him as the second-best corner this year. He said he plans to start as a rookie.
"Every corner should have that confidence just because they're on an island," he said. Asked about the pre-draft rankings he said, "I'm not someone who Googles themselves."
You got the sense that Smith might. He described himself as a big, physical shut down corner and claimed to have better ball skills than All Pro Nnamdi Asomugha.
"I've got great hands. I played wide receiver in high school -- 1,500 yards," said Smith, who measured at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds.He also boasted about winning competitive drills at Colorado "every single Friday."
Smith's physical skills have won praise from scouts, but he faces questions about his character. He said he made mistakes as a freshman and sophomore, implying that the issues had to do wtih just arriving at college. He knows he'll have to show teams he has matured.
"These interviews are really what's going to make or break me," Smith said.
Harris has been linked to the Eagles in some mock drafts. Listed at 5-foot-11, he said he can still play physically.
“It helps me to come from a system like Miami where I was able to be aggressive and physical against those bigger receivers that don’t expect guys my size to be able to do,” Harris said. “I can run with the best of them. When I am able to use my footwork and put my hands on guys, that’s something that guys are impressed by when they see me do that being I’m not 6 foot or 6-1.”
Harris said he has spoken to eight or nine teams, but not the Eagles, though that doesn’t necessarily mean much. First round pick Brandon Graham had little contact with the team last year.
Harris, who left school after his junior year, started for three years at Miami.
“Every year, my confidence rose. I’m at the point right now, my confidence is so high and I believe in myself a ton,” he said.
Harris said he gave up one touchdown last season and touted his versatility, saying he can cover in the slot or on the outside, and also blitz.
“I try to mimic my game as close as possible to Charles Woodson. He’s one of the corners that I watch,” Harris said. I do a lot of things that he does as far as playing the outside corner position and busting inside in the nickel on certain packages and coming off the edge to blitz the quarterback and stick your nose in the run game. As a DB, that’s a quality you have to have in the NFL. You have to tackle as well as you can cover.”
Dowling missed much of his senior season with a succession of injuries to his hamstring, then knee, then ankle. But he said he is now healthy and can use his size – he was measured at six-foot-two, 198 pounds – to battle big NFL receivers. As far as showing NFL scouts his health, “You just have to show the teams what you can do,” he said.
Jarrett is considered one of the better safeties in a relatively weak class. Coming from a smaller school he said he wants to show he can compete at the highest level.
-- Devlin threw with a quarterback group that included Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Washington’s Jake Locker this morning. The consensus among the media who watched (and that I agree with) was that he didn’t stand out for good or for bad. Devlin was sharp on shorter throws, such as slants, but missed on most of his deep attempts.
Mallett, who had a bad day with the media Saturday, had a great day passing Sunday, rifling the ball with impressive power and accuracy.
-- Dowling had one of a few funny quips today. Asked about his goal in the 40 he answered, “to run fast.”
-- Herzlich, a college teammate of Packer nose tackle B.J. Raji, praised the linemen’s play, but gave a thumbs down to his end zone dance in the NFC title game. “He’s a pretty good dancer, but he didn’t show it on the field.”
-- Herzlich also questioned the NCAA’s rule restricting the way players apply their eye black. The association called it “make up.” “I was like, I’m not wearing make up, I’m wearing eye black.”
-- “Miami can expect to be competing for national championships every year under coach Golden,” Jarrett said of his former Temple coach.
-- Fairley said he admired Reggie White’s play.
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